Saruman or Faramir?

GandalfPresently I’m re-reading The Two Towers, the second volume in the Lord of the Ring epic by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first half of the book is devoted to the conflict between Saruman the White, once head of the Council of wizards and Gandalf’s superior, who secretively aligned himself with the great Enemy in the East, and those who aim to forestall the evil sweeping the land.

For years Saruman counseled patience and waiting rather than active resistance as their Enemy grew ever more powerful. Saruman acted the part of a friend, but in reality he was undermining the efforts to withstand the Great Evil.

In the second half of the book, the protagonist Frodo and his servant Sam fall into the hands of a man named Faramir, charged with patrolling the border between the Evil Lord’s stronghold and that of Gondor, the land taking the brunt of the conflict.

Faramir is rightly suspicious of these two hobbits who say they are travelers. There are no travelers here, he says, only people for the Evil Lord or against him. His inclination is to take Frodo and Sam with him back to Gondor.

At some point during Faramir’s inquisition of Frodo, Sam interrupts with these lines:

It’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.

These two characters seem to me to reveal the dilemma of the Church. On one hand there are people pretending friendship, even high up in authority, considered wise, people with influence and standing who others listen to and follow. Yet all the while, they are working for the enemy.

On the other hand there are those who seem wary and suspicious, who want to interview and question, who insist on details in order to be sure which way a person is aligned, all the while delaying and perhaps discouraging those from the work they have set out to accomplish.

Either there is lax acceptance leading to betrayal, or scrupulous investigation leading to division and potentially the undermining of significant work.

Interestingly, in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has tried to utilized the equivalent of passwords to alleviate the problem: Jesus people, born again, Bible believing, Christ followers. All are designed to alert others of a person’s true beliefs so that Family members can find one another.

The reality is, Saruman ended up showing his true colors when he held Gandalf captive. And Faramir showed his true colors when he let Frodo go free. In the end, their actions, not their words, showed their allegiance.

I suspect the same is true today. Whether or not a person claims some sort of connection with Christ matters less than whether or not they actually listen to Christ, put their trust in Him, obey Him. Who is taking up their cross? Who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Who is dying to self and living to righteousness?

Handsome is as handsome does, Sam says to Faramir at one point, and the old adage is still true. Christians don’t need to talk the talk as much as live the life. Then it will be quite apparent who is Faramir and who is Saruman.


  1. Thank you for this. I dislike the “passwords.” The New Testament does contain the terms “saved” and “born again,” but I doubt there is a real precedent for simplistically labeling people as “saved” or “unsaved.” The concept of salvation is too deep, too serious, and maybe above all too important to throw around so casually with a term like “saved,” in my opinion.

    I think a lot of this comes from the problem of having a society that was once nominally Christian. We still can’t cope with the fact that we can’t get all the true, sincere believers together under one worldly banner and exclude everyone else.


    • I’m sure you’re right that the “passwords” are an attempt to sort out who is true and who isn’t. But this was a problem even in the first century–hence Paul and Jude and Peter writing about false teaching.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, Bainespal.



  2. Great post, Becky. Thank you for sharing your insights. So very true. We who work with words are perhaps more prone to forget that our actions are far more important than what we say or write.

    BTW–I really enjoyed the book tour for Starflower. Lots of insightful posts and reviews. Thank you again!


    • Thanks, Jill. Yes, I suspect we writers may have a harder time, but maybe we can apply the point to our characters–it’s more important that they show what we want to get across than it is that they explain what it is we want to get across. 😉

      Thanks for the kind words about the Starflower tour. I enjoyed it too. It’s always fun when some people discover an author they love!



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